At a certain point Governments need to govern. Yesterday, a strange new trend emerged. Canada has its first government for whom not governing is the new strategy and failure is the new success.
Mere minutes after Canada lost the vote for a seat on the United Nations Security Council to Portugal the Government had identified who was at fault: the leader of the opposition. Dimitri Soudas, Harper’s communications director told the Canadian Press: “I would say a big deciding factor was the fact that Canada’s bid did not have unity because we had Mr. Ignatieff questioning and opposing Canada’s bid.”
Allegedly, before the vote even took place, the Conservatives had attack ads ready to blame the opposition leader. Did the Prime Minister want a seat on the Security Council? Desperately. But short of that, the whole event was to be converted into a attack the opposition event. Let’s celebrate our failure and blame someone else.
It is, of course, a repeat of a similar story from last month: Gun Registry. As Don Martin so persuasively argues in the National Post, the Conservatives couldn’t be happier that its demise was defeated. The party has been able to use the issue to drive fundraising and “rally its base.” Once again, did the Prime Minister want the gun registry eliminated? Absolutely. But, once again, failure becomes success. Let’s celebrate and blame someone else.
At some point Canadians are going to start to wonder? Can a government be built on the failure to govern? The Conservatives seem to believe that retreating to their 30% core support will win them minority governments forever. But at some point the public may actually look for a government that wants to succeed, and a brand built around celebrating failure and playing on divisions could backfire.
Indeed, this strategy erodes the one thing the conservatives claimed lay at the heart of their brand. Accountability. As the list of failures – from the gun registry, to proroguing parliament, to the census, and now the security council debacle – grows one can always try to blame others, but voters will start to ask… are governments at least somewhat accountable for its decisions? To its choices? For its failures?
There are hints that such accountability exists, if fleeting. Back in New York, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said “I do not in any way see this as a repudiation of Canada’s foreign policy… The principles underlying our foreign policy, such as freedom, democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law, were the basis of all our decisions… Some would even say that because of our attachment to those values that we lost a seat on the council. If that’s the case, then so be it.”
It may be a bitter statement, but at least the Minister displayed a shred of accountability. An acknowledgement that it was decisions this government made – not statements by the opposition leader few inside (forget about outside) Canada were aware of – that were possibly responsible for ending Canada’s bid. It would be nice if this – and not failure – were the metric the government choice to measure itself by.